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The Chaffee County Planning Commission debated for more than two hours about a proposed text amendment to the county’s agricultural subdivision exemption text amendment during its Jan. 28 meeting, before moving to recommend denial of the request to Chaffee County Commissioners. Motion to deny was made by Planning Commissioner Anderson Horne, seconded by Planning Commissioner Bill Baker and passed unanimously.

“This is an attempt to do an end run around the Agricultural (Ag) exemption subdivision for residential uses,” said Horne.

Planning commissioners cited two reasons for denial, beginning with the fact that revision of the Chaffee Comprehensive Plan is in-process, which will in turn require revisions to the current land use code (LUC). They also pointed out that there are other alternatives available for land owners to subdivide as reasons for recommending denial.

“The original intent of past agricultural subdivision exemption was clear, to provide a lot for a family member,” said Planning Commission Chair Mike Allen. “Ag land owners needed a process to be able to sell a parcel of land in a relatively short time without the burden of the subdivision process, or the requirement of sale to a family member, yielding the present Ag. subdivision exemption requirements.”

The amendment request made to Planning commission by developer and Realtor Karin Adams would amend the Chaffee Land Use Code in two subtle, but important areas. It would change the phrase ‘greater than 35 acres’ in Section 5.2.3 C1 to read “35 acres or more’. It would also amend Section 5.2.3 C3 to remove the term ‘residential’ from the section.

The county currently has four avenues available to subdivide property:

  • Agricultural subdivision exemption
  • Heritage water exemption
  • Minor subdivision process
  • Major subdivision process

Adams said she believed that evidence was presented that Ag land owners who chose to use the agricultural subdivision exemption process are subjecting the subdivided parcel to restrictions on use that are inapplicable to similarly situated properties. “The current exemption is unclear on allowable uses on the exempted subdivided lot.”

Staff had no objections to the change to ’35 acres or more’, but it did object to removal of the term ‘residential’. “The exemption is intended to create residential parcels – created by subdivision exemption,” said Planning Manager Jon Roorda. “In addition to the 35 acres or more, we are proposing to add the word ‘residential’ two more times in the LUC to support this position.”

“My recollection of why this comes forward – is not what staff is saying – it was to be available to ranchers that if they have a need to chip off a piece [of land] they would be able to do that. They still have to prove agricultural use,” said Adams. “…when you restrict it to residential – you can’t put a fruit stand out there. This is to compliment an existing operation. To me when we remove ‘residential’ and call it just ‘a lot’ and it’s in the zone that already exists…the whole effort has been to keep ranchers ranching.”

Planning Commissioners disagreed, asking ‘what prevents ranchers under the exemption from them not carving out commercial use?’ Tehy pointed out that current LUC allows for businesses to exist on that rural or commercial zone. “If you carve it out and don’t clearly say this is residential, it could be sold off to some unrelated business – right?” asked Horne.

“This is a dilemma here – if we do this we would be downgrading that zoning of that property?” asked Allen. “How is that different from a 35 acre state residential exemption? This is a legal question for me – how does this differ?”

Discussion ensued regarding the traffic impacts that allowing this change might have after the initial two-acre lot is carved off. Staff pointed out that not only might it present problems in getting Colorado Department of Transportation approval of driveway after driveway – including some with commercial uses –but that other impacts aren’t yet known.

“I can’t see the board approving any [lot] until we know what the actual use is going to be – we don’t know what the potential impacts are. We know what the impact of a residential lot will be,” said Chaffee County Assistant Attorney Daniel Tom.

The topic has been added to the joint work session of the Planning Commission and Chaffee County Commissioners scheduled for Feb. 25.

In other regular business, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the RGP Industrial Park Major Subdivision Preliminary Plan, which divides a 70 acre parcel into six lots, with five lots of roughly 2.1 acres in size, and the remainder as one lot of 53.5 acres and a road right-of-way. Planning Commissioners also approved the Lakeside Estates Preserve Filing 2 Minor Subdivision Sketch Plan.

It approved two text amendments to public hearing notifications: The first covers changes to the Board of Health Notice of Public Hearing sign posting requirements.

During a two hour work session prior to the regular meeting, Planning Commissioners continued their discussion regarding outfitting facility definitions and uses.

Image courtesy of iStock.

“We’re trying to get away from the term “outfitting’,” explained Planner Christy Barton. “It encompasses so many things … it depends upon the use and whether it impacts the neighbors.”

Later drafts of potential new language focuses on use, pulling apart outdoor recreation, outdoor entertainment and equestrian center/arenas, as well as what constitutes commercial versus private stables. The draft language attempts to clarify uses allowed within zone districts.

“I’m pulling these [definitions] back apart. You don’t have every use in a use table defined,” explained Planning Commissioner Marjo Curgus, who has been part of a smaller group working on the definitions. “A use table provides guidance, but it doesn’t include every use…user definitions and use table aren’t the same.”

She pointed out that finalizing things at this point in time might not be as productive as planning commissioners would wish, “because we’re going to change land use code in two years anyway.”

Also during the work session, Planning Commission reviewed a text amendment proposal for reduced setbacks from marijuana production facilities, which are currently allowed only in industrial zones. Setbacks are currently set at 500 ft., far above setback requirements for any other industrial activity.

Both work session topics will be on the agenda for the joint work session scheduled for Feb. 25.